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Newsom Says He's Scaling Back His Health Care Plans. Here Are The Arguments Against

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which arrived at the Port of Los Angeles to provide relief for Southland hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Carolyn Cole-Pool/Getty Images)
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In January, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled ambitious proposals to help him achieve his goal of getting every Californian health care coverage. But then the novel coronavirus swept in, decimating those ambitions.

The state has already begun draining its $21 billion rainy-day fund to help with the coronavirus response, and Newsom now says he has no choice but to scale back his initial $222 billion state budget proposal.

But Democratic lawmakers, local health officials, advocates, and lobbyists say this is no time to abandon a health care overhaul, and that proposals to expand coverage and access are even more pressing because of COVID-19.

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Among the arguments and demands on the governor:

  • Advocates and lobbyists want Newsom to stick with the existing proposals, such as protecting people from getting hit with surprise medical bills. They also want him to expand coverage even more and increase state subsidies for insurance.
  • Doctor groups are asking the governor to provide relief for health care providers who have lost income due to declines in patient revenue.
  • Organized labor is asking him to assist businesses so they don't cut health employee health benefits.
  • County behavioral health directors argue the state must fund more mental health and substance use disorder treatment because the need is greater today, especially for students who can't attend school and for those who have lost homes and work.
  • Some Democratic lawmakers argue that the workers providing us with products and services and the food we eat may not have insurance, and that represents a risk to all of us. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo of L.A. argues for expanding Medicaid coverage to unauthorized immigrants over 65. And Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento notes that "every person who can't get health care and gets sick could potentially spread the disease to more people."
  • But other Democratic lawmakers acknowledge they must reimagine their health care agenda, including state Assembly member Phil Ting of San Francisco, who says "we're going to have to be very disciplined."

Although Newsom has sought to quell the spending push by health advocates, he said Saturday that health care remains a top priority and he's "committed" to adopting reforms within California's budgetary constraints — even if it might not happen this year.